Tuesday, July 14, 2015
All-Star Week: joy of a team set
I've already mentioned that my favorite All-Star cards were when Topps used a player's base card to designate that he was an All-Star. There was nothing that made that player's card seem more special -- that player seem more special -- than a fancied-up, star-laden card when compared with the base cards of his peers.
I've already reveled in those years, from 1975 to 1981, when Topps did this. I compiled a countdown of the best cards and everything.
But this actually was a very brief period in Topps' history. Sure, it corresponded with my childhood, but many other collectors, both before and after I was collecting cards as a kid, are more familiar with another way to acknowledge All-Stars -- by producing an extra card.
This has been a common Topps practice for years, pretty much an exclusive of the Update set now. But long before that, before I was even born, Topps was offering extra cards of All-Stars. It did so in the late 1950s, with impossibly-difficult-to-collect high number All-Star cards like Stan Musial here.
And it did it again in the late 1960s with cards like these. I particularly enjoy the 1969 versions because the border colors cooperate with my AL/NL synesthesia.
But I admit, part of my problem with these "extra" All-Star cards is that they've just been so unobtainable for most of my life. The late '60s cards aren't all that difficult to find, but really any star card from the '50s or '60s is a hassle for the wallet these days. The '70s cards -- because I collected them -- seem more accessible.
Thank goodness for the '80s.
The '80s took the "second all-star card" of the '50s and '60s and made it its own. Topps couldn't put out a flagship set without featuring extra cards of all the All-Stars, and getting those cards went from "holy crap, I have this card" to "another Ryne Sandberg All-Star card again?"
But I don't want to focus on the pervasiveness of '80s All-Star cards on this day, which also marks the 40th straight time I've watched the All-Star Game.
Instead, I want to acknowledge the set that at long last allowed me to complete the "extra" All-Star set. And that would be 1982 Topps, the first time Topps featured extra All-Star cards for each individual starter since 1970.
Here is the first All-Star "team set" that I was able to complete:
An 11-card set for the American League and an 11-card set for the National League.
Like the previous year (in which there was no extra card), Topps added two extra All-Stars, presenting two starting pitchers instead of one, and throwing in a relief pitcher.
Such tinkering made me automatically suspicious of the other Topps All-Stars, but they're pretty accurate. All of the position players featured started in the 1981 All-Star Game. And Tom Seaver and Bruce Sutter played, too. Scott McGregor and Rich Gossage didn't play in the game at all, although both were named.
Now, let's go through the usual "Joy of a Team set" categories:
Favorite card runners-up: 5. Dave Lopes; 4. Fernando Valenzuela; 3. Reggie Jackson; 2. George Foster.
Favorite element on the back:
The All-Star backs are an achingly boring recitation of statistical achievements ('80s Topps backs are the worst). But Fernando's card back sucks you into what Fernandomania was all about. You can almost hear the cheers reading it.
Team's claim to fame: The two teams signaled the official end of the players' strike as the All-Star Game was the first game after two months of silence. The National League won 5-4 and Gary Carter was named the MVP after hitting two home runs.
Players I've talked to: None. I assigned someone to interview Rich Gossage once.
Most interesting card:
The cropping on the Dave Winfield card is rather unfortunate. He looks like he has no arms.
Former or future Dodgers: Willie Randolph played for the Dodgers in 1989 and 1990, and Gary Carter played for L.A. in 1991.
Favorite card in the team set:
#343 - Dave Parker
The '82 Topps All-Star set wasn't perfect. I'm not crazy about the fact that the AL and NL teams are separated in the set (NL is cards #337-347 and AL is #547-557), and back then I hated that I was collecting a second card of the same player (actually a third card because the "In Action" cards appeared in '82, too).
And, it's true, you could have assembled a "team set" of All-Stars between 1975-81. But, still, this was an achievement just because I never thought I could do it when I saw those 1969 All-Star cards for the first time.
I hope you enjoy the All-Star Game.
If you can't, well, at least there's cards to collect.